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Ray Donovan, Ep 1.09 “Road Trip” displays a fundamental lack of motivation

Ray Donovan, Ep 1.09 “Road Trip” displays a fundamental lack of motivation

Ray Donovan, Season 1, Episode 9: “Road Trip”
Written by: Brett Johnson
Directed by: Jeremy Podeswa
Airs Sundays at 10 PM (ET) on Showtime

With “Road Trip,” Ray Donovan attempts to draw a Shakespearean parallel between its twin protagonists- Ray and Mickey. Both are tied by family. Both seek to destroy the other, by violent and/or underhanded means. Both tout that they’re holding the family together, but in reality Ray and Mickey are the two biggest fault lines that all the Donovan cracks and crevices stem from.

Of course, “Road Trip” destroys this parallel as soon as Mickey picks up a gun and shoots Van Miller in the brain. On a guy level this feels out of place just by how badly it’s been telegraphed. Miller blurts out that no one but he and Mickey know about their little deal, then conveniently places his back to Mickey for several long takes, leaving Mickey free to lumber about out of frame until he finally pulls the trigger. There’s a long stretch of time between figuring out what Mickey’s going to do and Mickey actually doing it, all of which becomes dead air.

But upon further inspection Mickey’s crime is far greater than mere predictability. It becomes something Ray Donovan has struggled with all season- a total lack of motivation. From this episode alone, it seems as though Mickey pulled the trigger solely because Miller treated him like dirt. But Mickey still wants revenge against the son who hates him and sent him to jail. In slaying Miller, he’s undone all the work that would have accomplished what he’s been trying to achieve all season.

Ray suffers from the exact same ailment. It’s taken four episodes just to get Sully to Los Angeles, and in that time Sully’s gone out of his way to prove himself nothing but a liability. He’s uncooperative, easily distracted, wildly unprofessional and has already killed his girlfriend for dropping a minor hint about his whereabouts (and not caring in the slightest about hiding her body, which would be a far bigger clue for those on his tail). But Ray apparently needs him to kill Mickey, because the only one capable of committing the murder has to hate Mickey just as much as Ray does, and only Sully boils with that same fury.

If Sully wanted to kill Mickey that badly, he wouldn’t dawdle like a five-year-old on the way to LA and leave a trail of bodies in his wake. He’d lay low (which he’s been doing for decades until the very moment the writers needed him to do otherwise), kill Mickey and flee to some sunny non-extradition country. Had Ray hired some secretive contract killer (and this is crime fiction, so it’s assumed these people will appear when you need them) Mickey would have been gone weeks ago. But because Ray Donovan is so desperate to pad its running time, we’ve spent four episodes detailing the useless drivel that should have been pared away into five minutes of screen time.

Sully’s characterization is also completely ill-timed. Sully killing his wife establishes him as a cold-blooded killer. We needed to know that four weeks ago, not now. Before that moment, Sully’s been a baseless buffoon that Ray has been tethered to for no reason. Had our first glimpse at Sully seen him casually execute his girlfriend for mouthing off, we’d know from the start why Ray wanted him for the job. By now, it’s too little, too late.

With three episodes left to go, Ray Donovan finally has an endgame in sight- that of the Daryll’s first fight. Yet, miraculously enough, the title of next week’s episode is “Fite Nite,” so that endgame will presumably peter out next week, with something completely unrelated filling the last two episodes.

Hopefully it’s something more coherent than “Road Trip.”